Editorial: Crush drink driving

By Annemarie Quill

Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs were a contributing factor in 77 fatal traffic crashes, 360 serious injury crashes and 970 minor injury crashes during 2011.
Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs were a contributing factor in 77 fatal traffic crashes, 360 serious injury crashes and 970 minor injury crashes during 2011.

Back on May 22, one Wednesday afternoon at 3.40pm, I can't remember exactly what I was doing.

I might have been picking up the kids from school, or driving to sports. I often drive on Elizabeth Street and Waihi Rd. If I was there - or if you were - lucky we didn't cross paths with Alison Kay Hockly.

The Tauranga company director consumed so much wine that day when she was eventually breathalysed, she was almost four times the limit. She drove her Audi so erratically, crossing lanes and veering into oncoming traffic, that another motorist grabbed the keys off her until police arrived.

It was her third drink driving offence within five years. Her sentence in my view is appallingly soft. Seven months' home detention, and disqualified for just six months makes light of an offence that is a major threat to life on our roads.

The Government has taken a stronger line on drink-driving in the past few years, with measures such as zero-alcohol limits for under 20s and increased sentencing for driving offences causing death.

It is, however, encouraging that the judge used one of these new measures on Hockly: a mandatory interlock device, which means her car won't start unless she blows a zero breath alcohol level. This will apply after her disqualification ends.

Do these new measures go far enough? According to the Ministry of Transport, drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs were a contributing factor in 77 fatal traffic crashes, 360 serious injury crashes and 970 minor injury crashes during 2011. These crashes resulted in 85 deaths, 466 serious injuries and 1435 minor injuries.

The social cost of crashes involving alcohol and drugs was about $685 million, or 22 per cent of the social cost associated with all injury crashes.

The editor of this paper before has pointed out that the boy-racer law allows a court to order the crushing of a vehicle after three offences within four years, when offences may not include even drink. If cars of boy racers can be crushed, why not drink drivers?

Drink driving is an indefensible crime. It does not matter whether you are a boy racer, someone who has had one too many wines, or whether you are, like Hockly, a repeat offender.

It does not matter whether you are a hard-core criminal or a normally law-abiding citizen who makes an error of judgment, or whether you are a company director or the company cleaner.

Whoever you are, getting behind the wheel drunk can have disastrous consequences.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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